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Pearls

Pearls

Due to the scarcity of natural pearls, the great majority of pearls used in jewelry are cultured. Cultured pearls are created by implanting a small bead in a mollusk, typically an oyster. The bead acts as an irritant to the oyster, which begins secreting a pearlescent substance called nacre. Over time, several layers of nacre buildup around the bead, creating a lustrous pearl.

Color
Pearls have very unique color characteristics due to the optical effects of nacre. Bodycolor is the dominant, overall color of a pearl. Common colors are white, cream, silver, and black. Some pearls exhibit overtone color, which is one or more additional translucent colors that lie over a pearl's bodycolor.

Luster
Luster is caused by light reflecting off the layers of translucent nacre. The nacre's thickness, degree of translucence, and the pattern of the nacre layers determine the overall luster of a pearl.; The more intense the luster, the more highly-prized the pearl will be.

Shape
Even though round pearls are the most common shape, they are the most difficult shape to culture. All other factors being equal, a round pearl will be the most valuable. Round pearls are specially prized for making pearl strands (i.e., necklaces, bracelets, etc.).

Size
Pearl size is measured in millimeters (mm). Commonly available sizes of round cultures pearls range from 6mm to 10mm, but can be as big as 18mm in diameter. Larger pearls are rarer than smaller ones.

Care
Pearls are not the most durable of gems, but with a little care they can last a lifetime. Pearls are very soft, so they scratch and abrade easily. Keep them away from hard substances, like metals and other gems. When storing them, keep them wrapped in a soft cloth so they don't rub against other jewelry.

As organic gems, pearls contain a certain amount of water. It is important to maintain that moisture so they don't crack or discolor. Keep pearls away from intense or prolonged heat, as well as excessive dryness.

Pearls are very sensitive to chemicals. Perfume, hair spray, and cosmetics can all cause damage to the nacre. Women should put on pearls only after they have applied all cosmetics. Use a soft cloth to wipe down pearls after each wearing.

Cultured pearls should be cleaned on a regular basis. Warm, mild soapy water works well. Do NOT clean them ultrasonically.